I just uploaded a video of our family signing some traditional Christmas songs to YouTube. There is no musical instruments or pre-recorded backup. We have a mix of teenagers and small kids who sing at different tempos and levels of enthusiasm. Just barely passes as singing.

YouTube reported that there was a copyright claim against my video. When I clicked details it reported "Entity: Music Publishing Rights Collecting Society Content Type: Musical Composition".

It was my understanding that singing or humming a song was not considered violation according to YouTube, but singing along, or using backup music was. Is this a case of YouTube's detection algorithm going overboard, or just the usual overbearing copyright law?

  • 1
    Which songs were you singing? Some might not have been as traditional as you thought.
    – ChrisF
    Commented Jan 7, 2012 at 23:18
  • @ChrisF: I considered that, but I thought I read that was considered fair use. Commented Jan 8, 2012 at 0:44

1 Answer 1


YouTube reported that there was a copyright claim against my video.

A claim not a violation.

Music Publishing Rights Collecting Society is the generic name given to represent organizations that collect royalties for music.

YouTube most likely has contracts with many collecting agencies and just clumped them under one name. It's just an indication that someone out there has rights and gets royalties when you broadcast your video.

For more information on Royalties

1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royalties#Music_royalties
2: Music royalty collection societies MCPS, PRS and PPL

And Fair Use does not work here

When a copyright holder sues a user of the work for infringment, the user may argue in defense that the use was not infringement but "fair use." Under the fair use doctrine, it is not an infringement to use the copyrighted works of another in some circumstances, such as for commentary, criticism, news reporting, or educational use. The defense generally depends on a case-by-case judgment of the facts.

On whether the Christmas song they sang is public domain (which I think only works for United States) is another thing altogether. The song could be in the public domain but recordings of the song may not be.

Yes, music copyright law is confusing and stupid.

The video will most likely not be removed but have ads slapped on it.

Consider contesting the claim with the dispute form.

  • I thought I had read that YouTube does not consider it a violation of copyright to sing a song without musical accompaniment. I thought the claims were only for when a "recording" was included. Thanks for the info though. I disputed the claim. Commented Jan 10, 2012 at 6:11
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    Your video is a recording, by definition. YouTube does not limit itself to videos of other recordings because the videos are essentially no longer considered just "public performances". If these songs are still under copyright, you still need permission from someone (usually the songwriter) beyond what would be needed for a public performance.
    – MBraedley
    Commented Jan 11, 2012 at 17:59
  • @JimMcKeeth What MBraedley said will give you your answer
    – phwd
    Commented Jan 11, 2012 at 18:04

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